Flu scare means no handshakes for USF grads this weekend
TAMPA -- At the University of South Florida, President Judy Genshaft will not shake the hands of some 5,200 students who are scheduled to graduate in four ceremonies tonight and Saturday.
“She has always shaken the hand of every USF graduate,” USF spokeswoman Vickie Chachere said this afternoon. “For her, this is a big deal.”
As of Thursday, USF administrators had planned to have hand-sanitizing stations available before graduates went on stage to be congratulated by Genshaft and after they left the stage. But today they decided the risk was too great even for that and took the unprecedented step of suspending the graduation tradition.
“It has been decided that there will be no handshaking at commencement ceremonies due to the recent outbreak of swine flu and the spreading of germs through touching (handshaking),” according to a memo sent Friday afternoon by Cynthia S. Visot, Genshaft’s chief of staff. “The president will take photos with each graduate, but the traditional handshake by the president or dean/CEO will not occur during all commencement ceremonies. Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the arena.
“This was a hard decision to make, but the well-being of our students and their families need to take priority during this time of uncertainty about the spreading of this strain of influenza,” Visot added.
As a veteran of many commencement exercises, Genshaft knows not to touch her mouth or eyes until she had sanitized her hands, but she worried about the possibility of shaking the hand of an infected graduate and then passing a virus on to someone else, Chachere said.
“She was more concerned about the line of graduates,” Chachere said. “It’s very easy to pass the virus down the line in that situation.”
The hand sanitizing stations will be provided so graduates can clean their hands after touching the rail as they climb the steps on to the stage.
-- Richard Danielson, Times staff writer